What Does a Bubble in the Sidewall Mean?

Both tire and auto manufacturers recommend frequently checking your tires for signs of irregular wear or any other damage that could cause a dangerous tire failure. While signs of shallow cracking on the sidewall rubber or minor irregular wear are of concern, the presence of a bubble in the tire sidewall is a major safety concern that needs to be addressed immediately. A bubble in the sidewall of the tire indicates that the inner liner has been damaged to the point that it's allowing air to escape. Also, only the thin (nylon or polyester) sidewall plies are keeping the tire from a blowout.

Bubbles or bulges in the sidewall are normally the result of the tire's inner liner being damaged from an impact that creates a small hole or tear and compromises the strength of the sidewall plies. In most cases, the impact that caused the damage was not severe enough to be noticed by the driver, yet it was strong enough to damage the tire. Impacts with curbs, potholes, railroad crossings or debris in the road are the most common culprits. On occasion, a sidewall bubble can be caused not by an impact, but a structural failure of the tire. In these limited occurrences, the tire can be replaced with a prorated discount or refunded by the tire manufacturer's warranty. Regardless of the cause of the damage, a bulge in the sidewall is a blowout waiting to happen at any moment and needs to be addressed. 

An authorized distributor of the tire can inspect the tire for possible damage that would be covered under the manufacturer's warranty. You can also call the tire manufacturer directly or contact us for assistance with your Tire Rack order. Our Recommended Installers are also able to assist with the evaluation of a tire.

For more information on tire damage, read "Sidewall Indentations, Undulations and Protrusions."


Friday, January 16, 2015 by gene

Thanks for the info. I had a bubble from a pothole and drove around for weeks sometimes at highway speeds. After reading your comments, I realized I could have had a major accident. Whew!
Monday, January 26, 2015 by yasir ahmed

Thanks for info. I got new tires in my Minivan recently and hardly drove for 1000 miles, today I noted some dent (surface down) in sidewall at some areas in 3tires, do I need to talk dealer to replace new one? this is normal finding
Saturday, January 31, 2015 by Doc

It would be best to have a local tire shop inspect the tire for possible sidewall ply damage
Wednesday, April 22, 2015 by dz

Does a bubble in a run-flat tire pose less of a risk of blow-out then in a standard tire?
Saturday, April 25, 2015 by Doc


A bubble indicates the inner liner has been damaged, and only the outer sidewall plies are holding back the pressure. While a run flat tire has thicker sidewall plies (to give it enough strength to be driven on without air for 50 miles), that extra reinforcement can only offer a very small amount of added strength. The tire is on borrowed time and needs to be replaced ASAP !
Tuesday, June 23, 2015 by The Wet One

Just noticed a sidewall bulge on a tire. Thanks for the info. Off to the shop for a new one. :-(
Friday, December 18, 2015 by veronica

My car and tires have about 6K miles on it. Because my car (Kia Soul) does not have a spare it had to be tolled to get repaired. In so doing the driver of the toll truck drove the car (rear tire flat) onto the flat bed to take it to the place for repair. Upon their inspection I am being told that the it looks like someone took a razor to it or I drove over a razor and there is a bubble inside the tire because it was driven because it had a flat. Is it possible for the bubble to occur because it was driven flat?
Tuesday, December 22, 2015 by Doc


The inner liner of the tire was most likely damaged by the wheel as it rode on the sidewall of the flat tire, but it would be impossible to tell if that damage occurred before or after the towing company showed up.
Friday, June 24, 2016 by Robert

I just rotated my tires and discovered a bulge on the sidewall. Looks like it has been there a while. I was due to get the tires replaced this fall but it looks like I will be getting it done ASAP. I hate the thought of driving on it now but apparently I have been doing it for some time.
Friday, November 18, 2016 by LEE

Question- can an accident cause a bubble in a tire or if the car was pushed forward to a cement wall? Thank you.
Monday, January 9, 2017 by Christopher Conner

Can this be caused by extreme cold? I don't recall any potholes or hitting anything, but the temperature has been low single digits...
Saturday, January 14, 2017 by Doc


Cold temperatures can affect the rubber compound, causing splits or cracks (in extreme situations), but the bubble stems from a failure of the inner liner . I'm not sure that we have seen that type of failure due to a temperature change.
Monday, February 20, 2017 by Joni

Replaced all four of my tires at 25,000 mi. b/c of a bubble (said I had to replace all 4), now I notice another one after only 10,000 miles wear on these tires! Roads here are awful! Do I really have to replace all 4 tires?
Saturday, February 25, 2017 by Doc


If we carry the specific brand and model of tire you have, we can shave the new tire down to match the tread depth of the damaged tire (so you only need to buy one). Please call in with specifics to see if we can help !
Thursday, August 31, 2017 by Alexander Mohr

Based on my experience it seems some tires are more prone to bubbles than others
Thursday, March 15, 2018 by Leslie Clisby

Which tire brands seem to do this the most? How can someone persuade the shop owner it may be warranty and not a pot hole? What is reasonable cost to shave new winter tire down 9000km for my all wheel drive?
Saturday, April 7, 2018 by Doc


I can't honestly say that we can name certain brands that are more prone to bubbles / blowouts to be specific. Your local shop will inspect the tire to see if the damage was due to a manufacturer's defect or an impact. In nearly all cases, their "diagnosis" is unlikely to be revised or questioned by another shop. We can shave a new tire down to any tread depth you need for $ 30 USD per tire for reference.

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